Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Why am I an Atheist?

I seem to get this question a lot, and my answer that the whole idea of a supreme being doesn't make sense to me is never accepted as an answer. It's generally assumed that I was brought up in a very religious family, and that I'm somehow rebelling against that, which also doesn't make sense to me. Although that is true for some Atheists, it can't be applied to all of them. That would be like saying someone is religious because they were brought up in a very Atheistic household.

That argument, to me, makes as much sense as saying gay people should not be allowed to have kids because then they would be gay as well. First of all, I see nothing wrong with being gay. Second of all this would imply that straight people would only have straight kids. If that's true, then how do you explain Ronald Regan's son or Dick Cheney's daughter? I won't get into's a whole different rant.

So, why am I an Atheist?

Neither of my parents were religious, but I did have religious grand-parents, and I even went to church quite a bit as a youngster. However, when I was at church, I would listen to the stories the preacher would tell, and they didn't make sense to me. I was one of those kids that always asked why, and apparently that never went over well in church.

When I was seven or eight, I started reading a lot of books on science, especially astronomy. I was fascinated by the stuff. I couldn't get enough of it. Not much of a surprise that I would become a science fiction writer!

When I read those books, they made sense to me, and in a lot of ways they seemed to contradict what I was hearing in church, and what I'd read in the Bible. Yes, I first read the Bible when I was in 2nd grade...and it was the real Bible, not one designed for kids. Let me tell you, the Bible is not good reading for kids...I can remember some nightmares that book caused for me.

When I was ten, everything came together for me. PBS ran a series by Carl Sagan called Cosmos. I was a bright enough kid that I understood most of what he was saying, and the best part was that it all made sense to me. Here was a guy that was telling me what sounded like truth, or as close to truth as any of us can ever hope to be.

It was at that point that I realized it didn't make any sense for there to be a supreme being, and from that moment on, I was an Atheist.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the background, J.

In a lot of ways, I think atheists are the most hated minority in the US. The ones who won't say we're goingg to hell assume we're missing something. After all, "atheist" is a negative -- it doesn't say what we _do_ believe in.

I'm going to become a father this summer, and we're going to raise our child as an atheist. She's almost certain to face bigotry from other children and adults in ways I never did. But she won't have to disentangle herself from religious belief as I did.

I took Christianity more seriously than most, even as a child. For a long time, I thought it held the answers -- if only I stripped away the BS. But I peeled away layer after layer and was left with nothing. The whole institution is founded on "faith" alone. I felt conned, betrayed.

Later on, I saw religion being used _against_ a friend who was being thrown down the stairs and otherwise beat up by her husband. I woke up to the terrible sexism of the Bible, which is illustrated in everyday life by every Jew, Christian, or Muslim who interprets scripture literally.

By 9/11, I had lost any respect I might have had for the world's religions. They are not only incompatible with our scientific understanding of the universe, they are incompatible with morality and human rights.

Robert E. Porter

Marva said...

I was so relieved when I gave up agnosticism and went straight to atheism. I figured the former was just waffling.

Robert: It's tough raising a kid as anything. Contrary little beasts. Just offer rationality and let her figure it out on her own.

There is always the danger she'll fall for a cult (e.g., Presbyterians or something), but that's still her choice.

J Erwine said...

Not sure if I'd say atheists are the most hated, but we're certainly up there. I personally have never really experienced that. In any work situation, people have always respected me for my abilities, rather than judging me for my beliefs. And in most personal situations, I have fairly intelligent friends that think it's ok for people to be different.